Kittens are adorable but unfortunately, have sharp teeth and claws. During play sessions, you are very likely to feel their full force. Kittens are constantly learning boundaries and we have a role to play in helping them know what these are, and particularly to discourage biting.
The less you encourage a kitten to bite during play, the sooner it will stop biting you. Constant gnawing is associated with teething and your kitten will stop biting for this reason after 7 months of age.
Biting is one of several typical kitten behaviors. It is a good idea to establish the reason behind your little kitten nibbling at your extremities.
So, let’s take a look at the main reasons why your kitten might be biting you and what can be done to prevent it.
Firstly, accept that all kittens will go through teething as it’s a natural part of their development. However, also accept that not all kittens deal with it the same way.
We have two kittens right now (two Maine Coons called ‘Fred’ and ‘Oscar’), they’re brothers and both around 4-months-old. Oscar shows no signs of teething, yet Fred does.
Teething typically occurs from around two weeks and can go on until they’re about seven months old, at which point their adult teeth should have replaced their baby (err ‘kitten’) teeth.
So, we know that teething can occur up to the age of about seven months. What is the most recognizable sign that they are going through teething?
Well, you guessed it, chewing. Now, this won’t (typically) involve you. It will include everything else though, and I do mean everything.
Signs of teething may be evident on their toys, chair legs, doors – you name it, they’ll give it a chew if they can get their little mouths around it.
However, sometimes you are involved also. When a kitten is teething using your fingers, it’s different from when they’re playing with your fingers (or attacking them).
The biting is more of a gnawing action and you may see them tilt their head as they’re doing it to really relieve their back teeth. It should be clear that there’s no aggression involved.
There are things you can do about this though – more on that later.
Biting because they think it’s play
Another reason why your kitten may be biting you is when it is considered ‘play’ to them. Now, we’ve all been guilty of this, especially with kittens.
We know that the worst that can happen is they’ll give our fingers a little nibble but it’s really not a great idea to do this – however tempting it might be.
Yes, initially they may not realize that your fingers are somehow part of you and they are actually like little worms that they can ‘get’.
Honestly, no one knows what’s going through their heads at this time and don’t let anyone tell you any different – we’re just speculation and applying some logic.
Something important to remember when thinking about kittens and playing – how you interact with a kitten during play-time can affect its temperament in the future.
The very best advice which we must all follow (including me) is to ensure we play with our kittens using toys – and not our hands.
Is your kitten biting because it’s unwell or irritated?
Although teething and play are the main reasons why kittens can bite, they are not the only reasons. If a kitten is sleeping, they should be left to sleep – remember they need a lot of sleep, and just because you (or your kids) are in the mood to play with them, doesn’t mean they are.
They may be tired and irritable (like me after one of them bites my toes at 4 am on a Tuesday morning) or they may not be feeling very well. Kittens (cats in general) can hide how they’re feeling very well and it may not be obvious to you that they’re not feeling rough.
If this is the case and someone starts prodding them trying to interact – they shouldn’t be surprised if they lash out a bit!
Another way that small humans (err kids) can push kittens a bit far is to continually stroke them and applying too much pressure when they do.
They don’t mean any harm by it but they should be taught how to treat kittens, especially in the first few weeks.
Is your kitten scared?
Kittens can become spooked easily and for all kinds of reasons. It could be as simple as you wearing a strong perfume/aftershave which freaks them out.
Or, loud noises and general ‘kid’ behavior. Most kittens don’t like it when kids are running around the house, especially in their direction!
It’s more unlikely than the others but it’s certainly possible that your kitten may bite you if it suddenly becomes scared and you’re nearby.
Do kittens grow out of biting?
Yes, assuming the cause is teething – they will grow out of it when they are about 7 months old. As their adult teeth come through and they lose their baby teeth, they will no longer feel the need to chew at everything.
Although teething shouldn’t be discouraged, there are things you can do to stop them from doing it with your hand, check out the below.
What really helps the owner though is a proper socialization period during the first 12-weeks of the kitten’s life.
This is the stage in their life that is (arguably) the most important. It is when (similar to canines in this regard) they need to really explore their senses.
If you have bought your cat kitten through a breeder, ask about socialization and what their advice is regarding teething.
If they say the right things, such as it is encouraged by the use of toys (and not fingers) this is a good sign.
If however, the breeder let them chew on their fingers during these first weeks it may be difficult to get them out of the habit until they are ready naturally.
How to stop a kitten from biting
There are several ways to ensure your kitten doesn’t develop a long-term biting habit:
- Redirect their biting towards a toy and away from your hand.
- Ensure you discourage biting by instantly stopping any play that involves chewing or nipping you.
- Have plenty of toys and contantly encourage your kitten to use up its energy on these.
- Invest in several scratching posts and pads for your kitten to chew and claw.
- Consistently and calmly use one word firmly to display your displeasure at being bitten (such as, “No,”) as you withdraw your hand. Never shout angrily or retaliate by pushing or smacking.
- Never encourage biting by using your hand in place of a toy. This will only make things worse and confuse your kitten.
- Encourage calm behavior if biting persists. Wind down any play where your kitten gets over-excited and begins to bite you.
What NOT to do when they bite
When we’re hurt it’s sometimes natural for us to lash out. A young kitten is absorbing everything around it though and the last thing you want is for them to form a connection between you and being scared.
When a kitten bites you, it won’t hurt (much) – just remain calm and slowly remove your fingers whilst (if possible) replacing them with a toy.
Never take your frustration out on the little kitten, you’ll regret it and it won’t fix anything in the long run.
Conclusion – when will my kitten stop biting me?
It’s just natural and the chances are they are doing it because they’re teething. Although it’s possible it could be because of one of the other reasons, it’s unlikely.
Of course, if your adult cat is biting you, that’s another story, and there are many reasons why this happens.
Rest assured though that in the vast majority of situations, you’ll be looking back on this period fondly when they used to nibble at your fingers all the time.